Saunders keen to build on momentum from Crewe result

Crewe Alexandra vs Chesterfield - Dean Saunders - Pic By James Williamson
Crewe Alexandra vs Chesterfield - Dean Saunders - Pic By James Williamson

Dean Saunders says he wants last weekend’s win at Crewe to be the result his Chesterfield side builds on against Gillingham, rather than the midweek cup exit to Rochdale.

Saunders made several changes to his team for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie which the Spireites lost 2-1.

And although he was disappointed with the overall display, he feels it shouldn’t be allowed to knock his players’ confidence ahead of the visit from fourth-placed Gills on Saturday.

He said: “It’s disappointing to be out but we can’t let that affect what we did at Crewe on Saturday because we got a great result there and we’ve got to take that confidence into the Gillingham game.

“Obviously I’d made a lot of changes at Rochdale and a lot of young lads made their debuts so it wasn’t our actual first team on the pitch, but I thought we had enough to get us through to the next round.

“We had three games in a week and had a few players carrying knocks as well as key players like Lee Novak and Angel out. Liam O’Neil had played four games in ten days and we didn’t want to risk any more injuries ahead of these big league matches as I do see them as more important than Tuesday’s, even though we wanted to do well in the JPT.

“We didn’t play well in the first-half but it was much better in the second. Rochdale had a really experienced team out there whereas we had eight players who have played about 30 games between them, but hopefully we’ll benefit from that in the future as the experience is important for them and also because we could rest key players for games ahead.

“I said when I came here that I’d give young players the chance and they’ve done well in games so far.

“We nearly got a draw in the end as Mani Dieseruvwe had a chance to take it to penalties late on but it wasn’t to be, against a side who are no mugs.”

Saunders has given debuts to four young players over the last fortnight, Rai Simons, Mani Dieseruvwe, Jake Orrell and Dion Donohue all getting the chance to show what they can do.

And the Spireites boss believes they are learning fast.

He said: “It’s difficult when you put all the young players in together because they’re all trying to keep their head above water, without experienced players in there to help them. If players like Sam Morsy and Chris Herd had played on Tuesday we’d have looked better at each end of the pitch, but they’d just played three games in a week, are key players and we need them right for Saturday.

“These young boys have to take punches on the chin. They’re not going to go out there at 18 or 19 and just win every battle, they’re going to have to learn by mistakes. I’ll keep using them at times - we had two make their debuts at Crewe in Rai and Mani - and eventually it’ll pay off and they’ll become really good players.

“It was a dilemma whether to play Rai and Mani at Rochdale but we had to play six players from our previous league line-up. I’ll make a decision on Friday about the team and hopefully they’ll go out with their confidence back after ending the sticky patch.

Saunders says his side fear nobody having already put in good displays against sides in the upper echelons in the table, and with Gillingham flying high too he expects a tough encounter.

He said: “Gillingham are a good team with a good manager in Justin Edinburgh who knows how to find your weaknesses and play to their own strengths.

“We’ve played eight teams in the top ten so far so we’ve seen what the league has to offer and shouldn’t be frightened of anyone. The fans have been behind us all the time and if we concentrate on our own game we can get the points.

“Sam Morsy, Ian Evatt, Dan Gardner and Chris Herd didn’t play on Tuesday and Jay O’Shea and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake were subs so we’ve got those key players to come back in for the Gillingham game.

“The continuity will come from the Crewe game rather than Rochdale. Crewe won’t be bottom for long as they’re a good side and it was probably one of the most even games we’ve had and we’ve deserved to win most of them. We scored two and are making chances all the time, we’ve just got to get the other end right.

“If we can get some points from these next two games we could be back in or around the play-off zone as we’re only three points off it at the moment. If you’d have offered that situation that to me at the start of the season I’d have taken it.

“The Crewe result ended a sticky patch for us. It was important to get the points and if we do it again Saturday we’ll be close to the top six again.”